5 Proven Ways to Better Manage Stress
Stress is a fact of life and a necessary part of life too. Without the stress on the body from a vigorous workout, one loses muscles and gains weight. Without the stress of studying to learn a new subject, it is impossible to improve one’s knowledge. In any area of life that shows improvement or growth, you will find a stress factor involved with that change. The challenge then becomes to not eliminate stress but rather to utilize stress in a fashion that will produce the best results with the least amount of negative impact.
Have you ever wondered why some people keep going through obvious stressful situations while others are taken out? Why some people achieve while others fail to reach their potential? How a person manages their stress is a major contributing factor to their finding success.
Stress can take many forms: physical, work-related, family, financial, etc. It can also be internally or externally generated. Personally, I find the most challenging form of stress to be the stresses I put on myself to be, or to create, or to achieve to an ideal “goal” I have set. The larger the goals the higher the level of stress and I must find methods to manage that stress in order to stay productive.
As I have worked to better manage and benefit from stress, I’ve learned six proven ways to improve my performance and reduce response to stress. Although seemingly simple on the surface these techniques are all too easy to forget when stress levels rise
1. Exercise and Get Enough Sleep – It may seem all too obvious but getting exercise and enough sleep greatly increases a person’s ability to handle stress. However, exercise and sleep are often the first things to be tossed out of our routine when stressful situations develop.
2. Lean Into the Stress – Seek to understand what is causing your stress and the very real emotional, physical, and mental impact it has on you. Identify the actual “feelings” you experience when you are “feeling stressed-out.” Are you tired? Irritable? Overly excitable? By exploring your stress feelings in a non-judgemental way you begin to learn the early warning signs that your stress level is getting too high.
3. Imagine the Worst – This may sound counter-productive, but in reality, it can be liberating to imagine the worst possible outcome of the factor causing your stress. In the majority of situations, the worst possible outcome will be challenging but not catastrophic. Just like a child who is afraid there are monsters in the closet, it can be extremely powerful to open the closet door, look for the worst, and realize you can handle it – thereby eliminating the monster altogether.
4. Identify Expectations – The biggest stresses come from dissidence in our minds that things aren’t as we expect them to be. Canyoneering - expect to slip a little, when I slip not a big deal. expect not to slip and then slip a little - adrenalin rush / huge response. Explore: Are my expectations valid? Are they based in reality? Explore assumptions - realize the problem isn’t that something shouldn’t have happened but rather our expectation that something shouldn’t have happened was unrealistic.
5. Acknowledge Stress – “I’m nervous about my daughter getting married” It is okay to vent and express our stressed feelings to others. Acknowledging our stress can reduce its power. Let the stress out and then get back on track.